12 June 2003 Edition

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Blair's debt to Military Intelligence

Tony Blair may be pressurised into overlooking wrongdoings by British Military Intelligence in the North, Sinn Féin has warned. Last week, former NIO Secretary of State John Reid attacked elements within MI5 and MI6, accusing them of trying to undermine the British Prime Minister.

Reid's claims followed further political controversy concerning Britain's invasion of Iraq. Tony Blair, a keen advocate of war, had sought support by claiming that Saddam Hussein's regime possessed weapons of mass destruction capable of being deployed within 45 minutes.

But following the invasion, the inability of US and British troops to uncover any such weaponry has fuelled suspicions that the British government exaggerated intelligence reports into Iraq's biological and chemical weapons capability.

Tony Blair, the main political architect of the invasion, came under increasing pressure after British Intelligence sources suggested that the government's statements about the potential threat posed by the Iraqi regime had been deliberately misleading.

John Reid, now British Labour Party chair, immediately claimed that rogue elements within the British security establishment were maliciously briefing the media against the Prime Minister and a Labour government that historically MI5 and MI6 have viewed with deep suspicion.

Sinn Féin's Mitchel McLaughlin said that Blair's political reputation is now clearly reliant upon his relationship with the British Intelligence establishment.

Republican's believe that if John Reid's analysis was accurate, the British PM may be tempted to buy off his secret service adversaries by overlooking wrongdoings by British Military Intelligence in the north of Ireland over the last 30 years.

British Military Intelligence is coming under increasing pressure following continuing revelations about its operatives' covert activities, including murder, in the North of Ireland. Meanwhile, the British government is coming under increasing international pressure to convene a public inquiry into Crown force collusion with loyalist death squads.

A former Canadian judge, Peter Cory, is currently examining a number of controversial killings, including the murder of defence lawyers Pat Finucane and Rosemary Nelson. Later this year, Cory will recommend whether or not the cases under consideration require an independent judicial inquiry.

"Tony Blair is definitely in political difficulty over Iraq, and that translates into a significant leverage for elements within British Intelligence," said McLaughlin, "if Reid's analysis is correct, Tony Blair could be held to ransom over wrong doings by British Intelligence in the North of Ireland."

Meanwhile, Ken Barrett, a loyalist charged with the murder of Pat Finucane is alleged to have admitted killing the Belfast solicitor to undercover British policemen posing as drug dealers. The policemen claim they posed as criminals in order to 'gain' Barrett's 'confidence'.

This is not the first time Barrett has confessed to the killing. According to former RUC officer Jonty Brown, Barrett first admitted to the killing during a meeting with him and Special Branch. The meeting was secretly taped but the tape was later destroyed and replaced by a non-incriminating recording. More recently, BBC documentary makers secretly filmed Barrett during in which he detailed his role in the Finucane killing.

Following the killing of William Stobie, another loyalist and Special Branch agent involved in the Finucane murder, Ken Barrett and his family were flown out of the North by the Stevens team and resettled in a safe house in southern England. It was here that Barrett was approached by undercover police officers posing as drug dealers and offered a job as their driver.

UDA man's body found

The body of missing UDA member Alan McCullough was discovered in a shallow ditch along the Aughnabrack Road on the outskirts of North Belfast. McCullough, a member of the Shankill's notorious C Company, was a close associate of Johnny Adair.

The 22-year-old had fled to Scotland with other members of Adair's UDA faction during the recent round of blood letting in the loyalist feud. It is believed McCullough returned after reassurances from the UDA but a few days later he disappeared after being spotted with two UDA men.

It is believed that McCullough was lured to his death and handed over to South East Antrim UDA. He had been implicated in the killing of former UDA commander John Gregg. Despite his relative youth, McCullough had held the position of 'military commander' in the Shankill and his name has been linked to a number of brutal killings and sectarian attacks.

According to media reports, McCullough revelled in his reputation as a killer, sporting a tattoo of the grim reaper, an icon favoured by Adair himself, and displaying a heavy gold chain around his neck, reputed to be a 'reward' for 'operations' carried out by McCullough for the UDA.

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